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Janice VanCleave's Teaching the Fun of Science

Janice VanCleave's Teaching the Fun of Science

by Janice VanCleave, Janice Van Cleave
Make Learning Science Fun with this Essential Guide from Everyone's Favorite Science Teacher!
Now you can introduce children to the wonders of science in a way that's exhilarating and lasting. In Janice VanCleave's Teaching the Fun of Science, the award-winning teacher and popular children's author provides key tools to help you effectively teach the physical,


Make Learning Science Fun with this Essential Guide from Everyone's Favorite Science Teacher!
Now you can introduce children to the wonders of science in a way that's exhilarating and lasting. In Janice VanCleave's Teaching the Fun of Science, the award-winning teacher and popular children's author provides key tools to help you effectively teach the physical, life, and Earth and space sciences and encourage kids to become enthusiastic, independent investigators. Each science concept is presented with hands-on activities, teacher tips, key terms, and much more, including:

• reproducible sheets of experiments and patterns

• lists of expectations based on National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks

• advice on preparing materials and presenting each topic

• dozens of suggestions for extensions
As with all of Janice VanCleave's books, the format is easy to follow and the required materials are inexpensive and easy to find. With Janice VanCleave's Teaching the Fun of Science you can inspire, challenge, and help your students to develop a lively and lifelong interest in science.
"Janice VanCleave's books are so popular that they are some of the books we check out most often. . . . Our student teachers and new teachers often comment about how useful the VanCleave books are."-Janet Jordon, Purdue University
"Ms. VanCleave's presentation of the application of the scientific process is truly beyond compare. . . . She is able to set high standards for children without mystifying the subject. . . . [A] talented author and spectacular teacher."-Kristen Parks, Education Director, The Discovery Science Place
"People often tell me how great my science lessons are. I always admit that the lessons come straight from Janice VanCleave's books. . . . Everyone in my class gets excited when it's science time!"-Laura Roberts, elementary school teacher, Louisville, KY

Editorial Reviews

Former science teacher Van Cleave has written more than 40 books about sharing the excitement of education with the young. This volume includes numerous experiments and lesson tips.
Children's Literature
This science information book is a compilation of classroom activities or investigations in Physical Science, Life Science and Earth and Space Sciences, with useful pages for the teacher identified as "Teaching Tips for the Investigation." It is on these pages that benchmarks or National Science Education Standards are identified, with guidance for teachers about preparing for and presenting the investigation. Efficiency of content is the approach, with one-page descriptions of investigations. The purpose, materials, procedure, results and a "why?" section make up the page, often with an accompanying line drawing for illustration. The length and thoroughness of the glossary and index are commendable. 2001, John Wiley & Sons, $19.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Jacki Vawter

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Science as Inquiry

The tool for the science inquiry approach is the scientific method. This method is the process of identifying a problem, thinking through the possible solutions to the problem, and testing each possibility for the best solution. The scientific method involves the following: research (the process of collecting data about a topic being studied), a problem (a scientific question to be solved), a hypothesis (an idea about the solution to a problem, based on knowledge and research), an experiment (the process of testing a hypothesis or answering a scientific question), and a conclusion (a summary of the results of an experiment and how the results relate to the hypothesis or how it answers the problem question).

Although these steps of the scientific method are named in a specific order, scientists do not always follow this order. Research is named as the first step in the scientific method, but research is an ongoing part of any investigation. Not all steps of the scientific method are part of every classroom investigation. For example, many classroom investigations have a problem, but do not require a written hypothesis. Even so, ideas about the answer to the problem generally come to mind. Some investigations do not have an experiment per se. For example, the behavior of classroom animals can be observed and conclusions made from the data collected.

Classroom science investigations are designed to help students develop six skills: (1) asking questions (or posing a problem); (2) predicting what they expect to observe (or forming a hypothesis); (3) planning and conducting investigations (including experiments to test their hypothesis); (4) collecting observations (data); (5) organizing, examining, and evaluating data by constructing tables, graphs, charts, and maps; and (6) drawing conclusions by comparing their hypothesis (expected observations) with their data (actual observations). If a hypothesis is not required, the conclusion would be a summary of the results, including the answer to the question asked.

Physical Science

Physical science includes chemistry and physics. Chemistry is the study of the way materials are put together and how they change under different conditions. Physics is the study of energy and matter and the relationship between them. Kids enjoy learning about physical science because it deals with things that they like to do, such as making slime and experimenting with magnets. In physical science, it's most important to learn properties of matter and the changes they undergo, as well as the meaning of energy and its transfer, including motions and forces of objects.

Properties and Changes of Properties in Matter

Everything in the universe is composed of matter. Atoms are the basic building blocks of matter. All atoms today have been around since the beginning of the universe. Atoms combine to form new substances, then break apart and recombine in different ways over and over again. The atoms in your body might have been in the body of a dinosaur millions of years ago. Mostly, atoms change only by losing or gaining outer parts called electrons. In this section, students will use models to discover the differences between the different building blocks of matter: atoms, elements, and compounds.

Matter exists in different forms called phases, and each phase has its own physical properties (color, shape, weight, etc.). In this section, students will learn to identify the different phases of matter (solid, liquid, gas) and will discover that matter has physical properties by observing and using appropriate tools to identify specific physical properties.

Substances in different phases of matter can be mixed in different ways. When substances are combined to form a mixture, they are easily separated. An example is salt and water, which can be separated by evaporating the water. But if the substances chemically combine to form a compound, they are not easily separated. An example is the chemical combination of sodium and chlorine, which produces sodium chloride (table salt). It usually requires energy for a chemical combination to occur. In this section, students will demonstrate that some combinations produce a mixture that maintains the physical properties of its ingredients while other combinations do not.

Teaching Tips for the Investigation: Different Kinds


By the end of grade 5, students should know that

  • Materials may be composed of parts that are too small to be seen without magnification.
  • When a new material is made by combining two or more materials, it has properties that are different from those of the original material.

By the end of grade 8, students should know that

  • Materials made of different parts are called systems.
  • Matter is made of atoms.
  • Atoms of any one element are alike, but are different from atoms of another element.

In this investigation, students are expected to

  • Make models of systems and their separate parts and models of atoms (parts) and molecules (systems).
  • Understand that parts combine to form systems.
  • Distinguish between atoms, molecules, elements, and compounds.
Preparing for the Investigation

Prepare a Matter Data table and make one copy for each student. Prepare a resealable plastic bag of small and large, different-colored gumdrops for each student or group. Number each bag and write on it "Do Not Eat." Place 9 to 12 different-colored gumdrops in each bag. Make an effort to have a different number of each color gumdrop in the bags. Have students write their bag number on their copy of the Matter Data table.

Presenting the Investigation

1. Introduce the new science terms:

  • atom The smallest unit of an element; a building block of matter.
  • bond A force that links atoms together.
  • compound A substance made of molecules that are alike.
  • diatomic molecule A molecule made up of two atoms of the same kind.
  • element A substance made up of atoms that are alike.
  • formula A symbolic representation of a molecule.
  • mass An amount of material.
  • matter Anything that occupies space and has mass.
  • molecule A group of two or more atoms held together by bonds.
  • substance A material made of one kind of matter.

2. Explore the new science terms:

  • Matter is the stuff the universe is made of.
  • Most elements exist as single atoms, but some exist as larger units called molecules, such as diatomic molecules. For example, the symbol for one atom of hydrogen is H, but hydrogen atoms are rarely alone. It is a diatomic molecule (H2).
  • Examples of compounds are water (H2O) and table salt, sodium chloride (NaC1).
  • Atoms and molecules are in constant motion.
  • Models of molecules indicate the kind and number of atoms and their geometric spacing.
  • Chemical symbols for elements consist of one or two letters. If the symbol consists of one letter, it is capitalized, such as C for the element carbon. If the symbol consists of two letters, the first letter is capitalized and the second is lowercased, such as Co for cobalt. Symbols are always written in block letters, never in cursive.
  • A formula represents two or more atoms, such as the diatomic element, H2, and the compound water, H2O.

Did You Know?
No matter how substances within a closed system interact with each other, the number of atoms remains the same. This law is called the conservation of matter.


Systems are a combination of parts forming a whole unit. Systems may combine to form larger systems. How is an atom a system and also part of a system? (An atom is made up of parts: a center called a nucleus, which contains protons (positively charged particles) and neutrons (neutrally charged particles). Outside the atom are electrons (negatively charged particles). Atoms combine to form molecules, molecules combine to form parts of a living organism, living organisms combine to form populations, and so on.

Different Kinds

To make models of atoms and molecules.

  • 12 or more gumdrops of various sizes and colors
  • Matter Data table
  • crayons
  • pen
  • 6 or more toothpicks
  1. Look at the gumdrops. Each gumdrop represents one atom. Each color and size of gumdrop represents a different kind of atom. In the Matter Data table under "Atoms" in the Substance column, make a colored drawing like the one shown of each kind of gumdrop.
  2. Group the gumdrops by color and size. In the "Symbol/Formula" column of the Matter Data table, write a symbol to indicate each kind of atom represented. For example, the symbols could be "Lr" for a large red gumdrop and "Sr" for a small red gumdrop.
  3. Stick a gumdrop on each end of a toothpick. The joined gumdrops represent a molecule. Continue using pairs of gumdrops and a toothpick to model as many different kinds of molecules as possible.
  4. Group together the molecules that are alike.
  5. Under "Molecules" in the "Substance" column of the table, make a colored drawing like the one shown of each kind of molecule.
  6. In the "Symbol/Formula" column of the table, write a chemical formula for each different kind of molecule. For example, if a molecule is made up of two gumdrops, one Lr and one Sr, the formula might be LrSr. (Note that there is no space between the symbols.) If a molecule is made up of two gumdrops of the same color, one Lr and one Lr, the formula would be Lr2.

You have filled in each column of the Matter Data table. The kind and number of atoms and molecules varies depending on the color and size of the gumdrops and how they are combined.


Matter is anything that occupies space and has mass (an amount of material). A substance (material made of one kind of matter) made of two or more atoms that are alike is an element. The smallest unit of an element is an atom. The individual gumdrops represent atoms, and each kind of gumdrop "atom" differs from other kinds by its size and/or color. For example, a large red gumdrop atom is different from a small red one, and a small green gumdrop atom is different from a small or large red one.

Gumdrop molecules (a group of two or more atoms held together by bonds) are made up of gumdrop atoms linked by toothpicks that represent bonds (forces that link atoms together). A compound is a substance made of molecules that are alike. Molecules made up of two atoms of the same kind are called diatomic molecules, as represented by two like gumdrops linked by a toothpick. A possible formula (a symbolic representation of a molecule) for a diatomic molecule would be Lr2.

Meet the Author

JANICE VANCLEAVE is a former award-winning science teacher who now spends her time writing and giving science workshops. She is the author of over forty books with sales totaling over 2 million copies.

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